Serita Stevens is an accomplished writer of over 36 books, stories, articles, and scripts, several of which have been produced and optioned. Based on her teaching at major universities and conferences, she has written The Ultimate Writer's Workbook for Books and Scripts. Now available in both kindle and hard copy, it can be seen on HER SITE as well as usual bookstores.
Are You Really A Writer?
I get upset with my students and others who tell me they are aspiring writers. If you are writing, than you are a writer, if you are putting your tush to the seat of your typing or writing chair, if you are in front of your computer (or maybe still writing by hand as some people like the feel the flow of the words), than you are a writer, plain and simple. Just because you have not yet been published or produced yet, does not mean you are "aspiring."
People give me all sorts of excuses of why they can't write. Too busy; my job gets in the way; nothing comes when I sit down; there's too many good things on TV; my kids demand my time; and on and on.
The fact is if you really want to write, you will find the time - somehow. Some people get up an hour early and compose before the others get up or stay up a bit later. When I worked a full time job, I read and took notes on the bus to work, I packed a lunch and gobbled it down, using the rest of my time to write, and I didn't go out for drinks with my co-workers after the shift ended. I also was very frugal with my TV time. Of course, one reason I was able to write in such spurts was the fact that I had detailed outlines for the stories I was working on. It helped me to know what I had to include in this chapter or scene and where my characters were going. (In fact, to this day, I work on multiple projects at a time by having outlines and detailed notes.)
Ask yourself, what is more important to do? If you are focused on a career as a writer, than you must write - at least a little each day. It trains your muse and gets the juices flowing.
It took me eight books, with my eighth being my first published book, to get my work out there. I was later able to go back and revise four of the seven for publication. When I went back to some of those earlier works, I couldn't believe I had written so poorly. The fact is I learned with each progressive book how to mold my words, create better characters and suspense.
Like a brain surgeon, you don't graduate medical school and go immediately to being a top surgeon. It takes time, it takes practice and it takes persistence. We learn from others..constantly. Even though I am multi published and produced I still take classes because the Torah says you can benefit from everyone and I find that while listening, even though I might know what the instructor is saying, it refreshes me and reminds me - Oh, have I done that with my characters?. Sometimes, even though I teach, I am in a hurry to get my writing out and I forget to do a complete character bio, or to do pay off and set ups.
Yes, we are all in a hurry, especially in this day and age. Some people don't have the patience to wait to perfect their craft. I took a class once from Harry Mark Petrikus, the Chicago writer in residence. Someone asked him "when do you quit?" His response was "honey, if you can quit, do so. If it's in your blood, than you cannot quit." I knew then that writing was in my blood and that I had to continue at all costs - even if it meant a failed marriage from someone who did not understand what writing meant to me, even if it meant isolation because I didn't want to hang with my buddies from work. I wanted to write.
Write because you love it, not because you believe it will make you a lot of money. Write what you are passionate about. Very few writers make a living off their writing. Announcements of a writer signing a multi-million dollar deal is put in the paper because it is rare.
Learning is an active process and it takes a lot of effort. The fact is, if you are trying than you are.
So the next time someone asks what you do, don't say you are aspiring, just say you are a writer with works in progress. The word 'aspiring' demeans you. Keep writing, even if it doesn't sound good to you, keep reading, keep taking classes and learn from everyone. You will get there...one day. And maybe you will be among the 2% that makes a living at their writing.